Monday, December 15, 2014

Portland Modern Quilt Guild Medallion Pictures

2014 Portland Modern Quilt Guild Medallion
Last week I won the Portland Modern Quilt Guild (PMQG) Medallion Quilt in a raffle. This magnificent quilt was made by the 2014 PMQG officers: President Mary Mary Ann Morsette, VP Susanne Grey, Secretary Kelly Cole, Treasurer Lisa O'Conner, and Programs Director Cath Hall; with quilting by Nancy Stovall and binding by Chris Pera. The quilt is a new spin on a traditional medallion quilt, with modern fabrics, fresh colors, great quilting and a strong sense of graphic design.

the center block is an appliquéd Dresden Plate
The project was a year-long "medallion-along" and at the December meeting there were close to 20 quilts and tops made by fellow guild members who followed along with the project all year. Here are some more pictures of the Guild Medallion, with a full view of front and reverse sides and close-ups. Thank you, PMQG, for the amazing quilt. Enjoy the pictures!

the quilt is made of a wonderful selection of soft and bold colors
Nancy Stovall did a beautiful job with the long-arm quilting
the reverse side of the quilt includes a central column of pieced blocks
all of the blocks, front and reverse, are very graphic 
nice selection of modern fabrics
detail of quilting on reverse side
Portland Modern Quilt Guild has monthly meetings in North Portland, and other events such as charity-sew-ins and retreats. New members and visitors always welcome. For more information about the guild, click here.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

perspective: about juried shows, contests & competition

This photo received an award in the 1991 Photo Review National Photography Competition
After seeing the reactions to the QuiltCon notifications this week, particularly the ones sorting out feelings after not getting in to the show, I wanted to offer some perspective on juried shows, contests and competitions.

The first time I entered an art contest was in 1976. I was 10. It was the "Smile America" Dental Health Week Poster Contest, and I won a ribbon. The thing was, the ribbon was only an Honorable Mention. Not what I had in mind. Trying to wrap my brain around the terrible injustice while concealing my disappointment, the unfiltered reaction was to find fault with the other entries and the judges. You could say it was the first time I was unhappy with judging in an art contest, but I might call it the beginning of a mostly unfulfilling ride on the validation merry-go-round, which ended with an epiphany.

one of my photos from high school, Peddie School, NJ Chapel during Vespers
Over the years, I continued to participate in art contests, such as the 1984 Scholastic Arts competition in high school, where I received a regional Gold Key Award and an Eastman Kodak award. By college, I had graduated to juried shows and was an old pro at concealing disappointment if things didn't work out as well I hoped, but there was enough success to keep me going for a while.

"work from the heart rather than letting 
the whole thing get into your head"

One of the highlights was winning one of the top cash awards in a juried show at the Hudson River Museum in New York, for a photo of hanging laundry taken in our neighbor's backyard in New Jersey. The photo was also selected for "American Photography 6", an annual coffee table book published by Rizzoli around the same time. It was one of just a few images to occupy a double-page spread.

The Johnson's Laundry, Moorestown, NJ, 1984
Hudson River Museum Open Award for Photography, 1989
Another highlight was the Photo Review National Photography Competition in the early 1990s. I entered a few times, got in twice, and got an award in 1991. All of the selected works were published in The Photo Review, and top prizewinners were always placed in the beginning pages. The juror who gave me the award was Peter MacGill of the Pace MacGill Galleries in New York, and the photo was a color print of some graffiti discovered on a rock wall at the side of the road in Maine (pictured at top).

Fairview's Gold Dust (Dusty), Moorestown, New Jersey, 1989
selected for the 1990 Photo Review National Photography Competition
Toward the end of my period of entering hundreds of photography contests and juried art shows, the idea of competing with art felt unfulfilling, narcissistic, and I was trying to please the judges. I did please the judges, but I didn't please myself, so I got off the merry-go-round some time in the middle to late 1990s.

(far right) "Look at me, I'm a winner!!" (NOT!!)
During my semi-retirement from juried shows, I hopped on to another validation merry-go-round and swam competitively in masters swimming events, ending up with a large box full of awards. The awards couldn't be less useful to me today.

How many of my blog readers knew I was a US Masters Swimming National Champion, FINA Masters Swimming World Champion, US Masters Swimming Long Distance All-Star, and the first and only person in the history of US Masters Swimming to compete in all 12 national championship events in the same year? How many of my friends know I won the Newsletter of the Year award? You probably didn't know, because it doesn't matter to me anymore.

Usually I flat-out refuse to talk about any of it, but one of the good things about that experience was it squelched my urge to compete and gave me a completely new perspective about what healthy competition really was. It wasn't what I saw in that arena, nor was it what I saw with juried shows.

In 2008 I retired from swimming competition after competing in 21 national pool championships and more than a dozen long distance championships. The retirement was not the Phelpsian kind, when you come back the next time around to get on the validation-go-round again. I was really done with it, but not knowing what to do with the remnants of a defeated competitive spirit, I entered a few juried photography shows, mostly local, starting around 2009.

"And wouldn't you know, I received an award!" I said, rolling my eyes. It was in a juried show at Lightbox Photographic in Astoria, Oregon and was a second place for a photographic work called Zauberspiegel. So, there I was, riding that other validation-go-round...but it was different this time around. The ride wasn't as fun as it used to be. It wasn't much fun at all. It seemed silly. All I wanted to do was share the work, it didn't need it to be judged against other people's creations, and I certainly didn't need to be singled-out. "How awkward," I thought.

"Aquarium" 2012
One of the images displayed at Lightbox was a photographic work called "Aquarium", composed of many elements. It is about a vivid dream during a summer heatwave, when I was floating through the universe. When the piece was on display, it was unlike anything else in the show, but did it stand out or was it out of place? Maybe both. The next year I entered it in the Photo Review National Photography Competition, my first time since 1991, and "Aquarium" didn't make the final cut.

Although I was familiar with the Photo Review contest in the 1990s, I had no idea what had been included since then. Photography had progressed since 1991, hadn't it? I tried to push the envelope, but the judge wasn't having it that day. "Meh, no biggie," I thought.

It was some consolation to appear in a web gallery of favorite also-rans, but the work was better than that in my opinion. The thing was, it just didn't fit in, and I also appreciated that. Most of the photos in the Photo Review National Photography Competition are brutally realistic, hard, and not manipulated. "Aquarium" was far too fanciful and was completely created in Photoshop.

"House of Wonky" 2012, Viewer's Choice in Sisters, Oregon
Small Wonders Challenge
Then came quilts. I made my first quilt in 2012 after more than 20 years of collecting, and of course, I had to test the new theory about entering contests; the theory that they weren't what drove me. It was folly. Whatever the outcome, it wouldn't diminish me or the work. How would it feel to get back on that validation-go-round, I wondered. Would it be any different with quilts? And would it be any different with work made to please me and not the judges?

I made a little quilt called "House of Wonky". The quilt was about that feeling of having to figure things out from an isolated place. I entered it in the Small Wonders Challenge in Sisters because Mom would be visiting from Maine and I wanted to surprise her. It was open, all entries were accepted, but there were also prizes.

Since my goal was to get a rise out of Mom, there was nothing more at stake. Other people would get the prizes, I thought, and hopefully that would make them happy. My prize was the look on Mom's face when she discovered the quilt. The fact that I also received the blue ribbon for viewer's choice made the whole thing even more hilarious. Mom knew nothing of my quiltmaking activities before that moment. She is almost impossible to surprise, but I got her that time.

"Wild Eyed Susans" 2013, Honorable Mention, Small Innovative
Pacific West Quilt Show
In 2013, I made a quilt called "Wild Eyed Susans" for a guild challenge with the Northwest Quilters. The goal was to have something I made in the show for the very first time, and that was it. Later that year I entered it in the Pacific West Quilt show. I really had no business entering the show, but wanted to share the work with more people.

It was fun to get in. That, for me, was like winning a big prize. There was also an honorable mention ribbon...memorable...but it was not at all the defining moment of the quilt or my experience with it. Don't get me wrong, I was honored! It's just that juried shows, acceptance and awards really were not what drove me anymore. They were more like funny things that happened along the way.

The epiphany was: work from the heart rather than letting the whole thing get into your head.

just happy to be there
So, that is some of my perspective on juried shows, contests and competition. Been there, done that, wrote the book on it. As unfulfilling as much of it was, it brought me to where I am now. I don't take juried shows too seriously, even though I may want to enter one from time to time. For me, a juried show is a fun, if not silly thing to do. After all, art is subjective, and the whole idea of judging it is preposterous. And in case you were wondering, I did not enter the QuiltCon contest. A wise friend told me it didn't look good to get juried into a show where you're teaching, and with my luck, I would've gotten in and people would've been pissed about it. Maybe next time if I'm not teaching...and just for fun, nothing serious.

Today I do not feel unhappy about that Honorable Mention ribbon from the "Smile America" contest back in 1976. Actually, it's pretty cool, and green is my favorite color. The blue ribbon winner, which I can still picture, really was more deserving, and admitting it didn't cause me to keel over. If you entered QuiltCon, didn't get in, and you're feeling bewildered, unhappy and unfulfilled, I hope my perspective helps. Everything will be OK. Perhaps the experience will even lead to the same epiphany I had. Juried shows aren't the end-all-be-all - you are - because you know how to make quilts. Also, remember to do the work to please you, and don't just say that you are. Really do it. You will always be fulfilled.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Portland Modern Quilt Guild - The Guild Medallion

PMQG Guild Medallion - top before quilting
At the end of the Portland Modern Quilt Guild meeting and holiday get together Thursday night, I turned to a friend and started telling her about a couple from the Northwest Quilters, Bob and Maureen Orr Eldred. Bob and Maureen always buy a lot of raffle tickets at the meetings, and it's always fun to see the reaction when they win something every time. My friend smiled. She knew Bob and Maureen, too.

About half an hour earlier, at the end of the social I still hadn't bought my raffle tickets, so I made my way over to the table. Tickets were $5 each or 5 for $20, so I bought 25 tickets, thinking about how Bob and Maureen always buy their raffle tickets and have such good luck. Maybe one of the tickets would be the winning ticket for the incredible Guild Medallion, one of the two beautiful quilts up for raffle. Even if I wasn't the lucky winner, proceeds would go to the guild, and they deserved every cent.

Kelly talks about the Guild Medallion - what a gorgeous quilt!
A second raffle quilt, a stunning Ohio Star, is displayed on the wall.
Minutes later, everyone was seated again and the drawing was taking place. The number was 6851, and the room was abuzz as people looked at their tickets, and looked around the room. It took a minute to look through all the tickets, and there was number 6851, the fourth of my 25 tickets. Almost uncanny, but I knew the more tickets I bought, the better the chances would be. Still, it was a little stunning to see Bob and Maureen's strategy at work. Now I'm a believer.

The Guild Medallion is a special quilt, made by a very special group of people-- the 2014 officers of the Portland Modern Quilt Guild. It was beautifully quilted by Nancy Stovall, an expert long-arm quilter who has a long-arm quilting business here in Portland, and was a year-long project. At every meeting during the year, I admired the progress with the quilt and other "medallion-alongs" made by guild members. There were 19 of them on display at the Thursday's meeting, and I was very impressed.

The quilt is stunning!
Earlier in the evening I went to see Elizabeth Hartman at Modern Domestic. Elizabeth is a very impressive quiltmaker and member of Portland Modern Quilt Guild. She was showing quilts and signing books, and after I bought all three of her books and got them signed, I told her I planned to buy a lot of raffle tickets at the meeting later in the evening. So, I dashed off to find an ATM.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

learning to sew

Have you ever met an award-winning quiltmaker who didn't know how to sew? Well, here I am. Of course, calling myself an award winning quiltmaker is completely tongue-in-cheek. The truth is, I can barely thread a needle and it takes me about an hour to do that. Sure, I've got a couple ribbons and maybe eight quilts under my belt, but they were all a big challenge to make because I never had much formal sewing instruction. To me, the quilts felt like outsider art, and I had no complaints about that.

"House of Wonky" 2012, Viewer's Choice
Small Wonders Challenge, Sisters, Oregon
"Wild Eyed Susans" 2013, Honorable Mention
Small Innovative, Pacific West Quilt Show
For a little while, I got by on my art school background, with a good working knowledge of color theory, design, and some inspiration from quilt history. Other than a retreat in Sisters in 2013, the only sewing instruction I received was in 7th grade, Home Economics with Mrs. Schweitzer at Moorestown Middle School in New Jersey. I made a ghastly lightbulb pillow, and it was wonky. We also learned how to make a streusel coffee cake, which I felt was a much better life skill at the time.

"Oregon July" 2014, quilted by Jolene Knight - click on photo to enlarge
Last time I made a quilt, "Oregon July",  I realized I needed some serious help. My machine, a vintage 1930s Singer Featherweight, was giving me troubles and I couldn't get a long, straight seam going without the threads becoming hopelessly tangled. I brought the top in three pieces to Jolene Knight, who was also doing the long-arm quilting. She finished piecing it together, quilted and bound it for me, and did a wonderful job.

Michelle Freedman shows me how to piece at Modern Domestic PDX
In a lot of ways, "Oregon July" is more Jolene's quilt than my own. If it was ever to receive a ribbon, I'd hand it to her. That got me thinking about getting some sewing instruction so I could do more of the work on my quilts. Modern Domestic is one of many shops catering to the sewing community in Portland, and it is a hub for Modern Quilters. Several friends from Portland Modern Quilt Guild (PMQG) shop there and work there. Michelle Freedman, Past President of PMQG is one of the teachers. She is also one of the first people I met in the guild.

citrus wedges fabric I designed using Spoonflower
Michelle understands what it's like to go to art school. She went to Otis/Parsons in LA and New York, and one of her teachers was Tim Gunn! So, I signed up to get some one-on-one instruction with Michelle. We talked about some ideas beforehand, and I decided to bring some of my recent Spoonflower fabrics.

sashing and cornerstone repeats designed with Spoonflower
We met last week for a couple hours and put together a "Fruity Beauty" block, sash and cornerstone set. Yesterday we met again and continued with the project, finishing a small, four-block top. There are some things I need to work out with the fabric in terms of sizing and spacing, but I have a good idea of where I'm going with it. My goal is to eventually make a 16-block quilt with the fabrics.

composite photo made from first block, sash and cornerstone sample
Some of you may be wondering...since I have a house full of incredible, historic quilts and 70 in the New York Beauty family, why would I want to make one? After spending a lot of time working on my upcoming New York Beauty book with Quiltmania this year, I was inspired.
antique pieced quilt, an inspiration for my "Fruity Beauty"
There are a lot of ideas bouncing around in my mind, and many of them are for quilts. I always thought it would be fun to make a "New York Beauty" quilt, but never thought I would actually make one since it is such an advanced pattern. Sewing is something I can't seem to escape, though. Everyone around me is sewing, here in Portland and all around the world on social media. People are even sewing on TV when I tune into Project Runway. With all this sewing going on around me, I was beginning to feel like the only person who couldn't sew.

The "Fruity Beauty" project is basically cheater fabric designed as blocks, sashing and cornerstones without all the elaborate piecing. It is a postmodern, digital-age spin on historic quilts. I came up with the idea as a way to create an impressive looking New York Beauty quilt without having advanced skills. There is cutting and piecing involved, and precision is important, there's just not as much as there would be with a traditional New York Beauty. Michelle pointed out that Modern Quilters do not often include traditional sets of blocks with sashing and cornerstones in their quilts, and mastering these elements is harder than it looks. She's right about that, but with her guidance and great information, I did pretty well matching up corners.

It was a good time to learn how to sew, and I am enjoying the one-on-one instruction with Michelle at Modern Domestic. It's like being back at art school with a friend in another department, and in fact we both went to art school in New York at the same time. She was at Parsons studying fashion design with Tim Gunn and I was just blocks away at School of Visual Arts studying photography with Andy Grundberg, then photography critic for the New York Times. Sewing is a whole new thing for me, another process-oriented practice, and no longer a spectator sport. I thoroughly enjoyed working on my own project while learning how to make it work.

"Make it work!"

Where have I head that before?!?

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Cultural Fusion Quilts by Sujata Shah

When I heard Sujata Shah had written a book, I was very excited and preordered a copy right away. The book is called Cultural Fusion Quilts, A Melting Pot of Piecing Traditions, 15 Free-Form Block Projects, and was recently published by C & T Publishing. It is simply wonderful!

Sujata is a Facebook friend, and we share a lot of "likes" in common. Whenever people post pictures of brightly colored, slightly offbeat but harmonious improvisational quilts, we are clicking "like" to give the thumbs-up. Every so often she treats us to a picture of a quilt in progress, and I am always drawn in by it.

I love the book. Sujata has a distinct point of view, drawing inspiration from around the globe. The quilts are exuberant but grounded, a balance artists rarely achieve with such success. Her vivid, free-form quilts mingle handmade traditions from around the world in a modern way, and she demonstrates how surprisingly versatile a single block pattern can be. Highly recommended, I am thoroughly enjoying this book!! For more details, click here.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Happy Rainbow Quilt

This cheerful 1970s pictorial quilt will soon join my collection. It is tied, made of cotton, and has an inscription and date, 1977, in the lower left corner. Marjorie Childress, a quilt collector in New Mexico posted a picture of it on Facebook a while back, and it was love at first sight. Marjorie has a wonderful eye for quilts. Objects in her collection have recently been featured in new books by Roderick Kiracofe and Bob Shaw. She finds some of the most incredible things.

The Rainbow Quilt reminds me of my childhood, growing up in the 1970s, watching Schoolhouse Rock during Saturday morning cartoons. It has a whimsical quality, reminiscent of a child's drawing. Vintage pictorial quilts are rare, but I have another one with a rainbow. It came from Ohio and was made in the 1930s.

I am happy to have a dated, pictorial 1970s quilt joining the collection. It will also join the group of quilts to be displayed at QuiltCon and the Benton County Museum. Can't wait to see it in person. Will post more pictures when it arrives.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

The Best

"The Best" 2014 by Yvonne Porcella
photo courtesy of the Alliance for American Quilts
I adore Yvonne Porcella. Long before the day when I was lucky to finally meet her in person I admired her work. It is full of joy, playful, and she has an extraordinary sense of color and design. Her work is signature. When you see one of Yvonne's quilts, you instantly know who made it.

The Quilt Alliance (Alliance for American Quilts) held its annual auction over the last few weeks, and one of Yvonne's quilts was in the group that ended last night. There were many other quilts I would've loved to bid on, some made by friends, but there was something about Yvonne's quilt. I absolutely had to have it. Funny thing is, I have not been collecting much this fall. Instead, I have been thoroughly engaged in many projects involving quilts in my collection, and trying to save up for France. So that's how much Yvonne's quilt stood out.

We met last year at the San Jose Museum of Quilts & Textiles during my exhibition of New York Beauty quilts. After the museum gathering and tour of the exhibition, we attended a private dinner for museum supporters at Nancy Bavor's home and sat with Yvonne.

One of her quilts, best described as the psychedelic burger quilt, was on display as part of a food themed exhibit during my exhibition. So I got to meet Yvonne, see one of her quilts in person and have dinner with her all in the same day. The whole experience was the best, and having one of her quilts will be a wonderful reminder. I have the best luck sometimes!